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Digital Libraries in Nigeria
Infrastructure, flexibility, user-friendliness and accessibility

Damilare Oyedele tells a personal story of libraries transforming the human mind and shows how digital ressources can reach more users.

By Damilare Oyedele

I grew up in a peri-urban community in Ibadan, in south-west Nigeria, where I received my nursery, primary, and secondary school education. None of the schools I attended had a library. This denied me access to literature and the ability to use information independently. My reading culture was poor and I could not communicate fluently. This presented me with numerous challenges, including failing a national examination twice because of the lack of access to reading materials.

My first encounter with a library was when I was offered a place at a higher institution of learning to study Library and Information Science. I soon cultivated the habit of studying in a library, and began to experience and explore what the library had to offer. For the first time in my life, I had independent access to information and other intellectual property. Over the years I have been trained to interact with knowledge and information for studying and research, as well as its practical implementation for societal development. My library story shows how libraries transform the human mind. Over the years, I have had access to various electronic library databases, many of which are not available in the libraries where I studied.

According to the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) World Library Map, Nigeria has twenty-six national library branches, 815 academic libraries, and 290 public libraries, making a total of 1,131 libraries. This means that Nigeria has one library for every 176,834 people. The IFLA World Library Map also shows that twenty-one of the public libraries have internet services.

It is obvious that digital offerings in libraries are not limited to access to internet services alone. They include access to electronic resources and databases, and the provision of ICT facilities to promote equitable access to information for all. There is currently no data to provide concrete information on the digital offerings of libraries in Nigeria. However, a number of academic libraries offer e-library services, access to the internet, and provision of ICT facilities. The same applies to some public libraries. Identifying the digital offerings of libraries in Nigeria needs a holistic data gathering process to obtain accurate information and data about the delivery of digital services in Nigerian libraries.

Digital services offered by libraries are important but need to be considered alongside other issues, including: available infrastructure, flexibility, user-friendliness, the capacity of library professionals, accessibility by library clientele (in terms of technical know-how and availability of technology), government policies, and other emerging issues.

Damilare Emmanuel Oyedele

The global pandemic has shown that libraries in Nigeria need to move services online to reach their users. A lot of library users are disconnected from their libraries due to COVID-19. Ongoing efforts by civil society organisations and other development agencies are focusing on supporting libraries with the infrastructures they need to reach users remotely, data-gathering to understand library services delivery, areas of improvement, advocacy and support for the development of libraries in schools and communities.
Digital services offered by libraries are important but need to be considered alongside other issues, including: available infrastructure, flexibility, user-friendliness, the capacity of library professionals, accessibility by library clientele (in terms of technical know-how and availability of technology), government policies, and other emerging issues.

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